Santa Claus included in His shipment of goodies this lovely, simple and inexpensive new toy - and I gather my friend Len Wallis had a hand in this this...
But between my own travels, visitors from overseas and...work, I have not had a chance to try this wonderful addition to my hifi kingdom.
We are experiencing a very strong storm here in Sydney, really the tail of a cyclone hitting the Coast 6 hours drive north, so it is a good time to set it up (a breeze...sic) and clean a few records and take the time to listen to the results.
First cab off the rank is "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" by Simon and Garfunkel, a 1969 CBS record pressed in Holland and purchased in Paris for 49.00 francs, which was quite a sum at the time) which has seen many needles and turntables over the years (Dual 1219, Clement for a few nights, ERA 455, Rega Planar 3 since 194, and more recently Rega P1 branded NAD. BTW, as my daughter is in Paris for six months, I have pinched the glass platter of her (my old...) Planar 3 and installed it in the P1 which brings a significant improvement to the overall sound.
Back to cleaning, after three spins clockwise and three counterclockwise and a good dry with the special doth provided, it has to be said that most of the surface noise is gone, and it brings clarity to the whole affair. For sure, there is still audible noise in the groove in between songs, indicating that the brushes are not doing a great job in the depth of the groove, but gently clean the upper part of it satisfactorily to bring back the music to a very low level of noise free enjoyment.
Next I tried my original 1968 US pressing of the "White Album" from the Beatles bought in Mexico City at the time. This record has been abused at parties, on portable plasticky japanese player a la Teppaz, then on the same turntables as mentioned before. It is so damaged that I bought the 30th anniversary pressing which is still in pristine condition. However the 1968 pressing is still quite not there after the cleaning, as the needle collects a nice little fluff of dirt after the second side of the record finished playing. I think I will have to try a second clean another day and maybe keep it as a collector item, rather than a playable pleasure...I will let you know.
(That's 25 years ago, mon Dieu...)
Having said that, this Spin-Clean costs less than one hundred dollar and will restore most of your precious "galettes" to a listenable condition. To get something more efficient would cost about ten times more with a Clearaudio machine that would probably be my next choice up. But frankly, I rather spend the price difference on more records! Let me have your own cleaning stories...
You will probably agree that I have milked the CES franchise for a bit too long as the CES 2013 is in a couple of days...
So I thought I would recap here what speakers I really liked or discovered at the Show. I am not going this year, as I am going for a short trip to France to see my family and take care of my children that are or will be in Paris for their studies on an exchange from their Australian Universities.
Hopefully, I will have some time (between Cotes-du-Rhone and Camembert...) to research there some more French vintage products and I can entertain you again "on topic!
And to stay on my favourite brand, here is a shot of the new Thiel speakers on the Bryston stand (ah,ah, you didn't see this one coming, did you?).
The combination of Bryston amplification, 24/192 multichannel live recordings from iTrax and matching Thiel monitors and subwoofers ended up being one of the most sensational demos at the Show.
We are all familiar with the beautiful Nordic sound of Electrocompaniet electronics.
They evemn make their own version of the OPPO player.
But what is less known is their recent foray into loudspeaker design.
These fine little monsters are a very capable team and are built as two separate cabinets, my favourite arrangement, just in case you have not noticed already...
Very good demo and great conversation with the Director all the way from Scandinavia, who happens to know my ex-distributor in Norway, Martin Viktorin - small world!
Kondo + Audio Note Japan - Reincarnation of an ancient art
Beautiful to look at, beautiful to listen to, beautiful to talk about...
It is the nirvana for a lot of audiophiles in Japan, and for some of us, mere mortals, elsewhere in the World as well.
The closest system I have heard from the Pierre Riffaud/Tosca/Ocelia combo (punt intended...) I listened to at Point Musiques in Paris over my last trip.
It is craftmanship of the highest order, as well as technically very sound and painstakingly researched and executed.
A few kilograms of finesse in a world of brutes - better than chocolate? You tell me.
Nothing to do with mushrooms, although these shapes...
Morel is an Israeli company more famous for their drivers (I am about to trial one of their tweeters...) than for their speakers, but hopefully this will change as these beautifully crafted products sound as good as they look. Stay tuned!
REGA - Another first for BMRs in High End speakers
First spotted in Paris on an unofficial release, these speakers are taking advantage of the wide bandwidth of a 4.5" BMR driver to work from 300Hz to 6kHz. Rega has engineered a new tweeter just for the purpose to improve the high end over the BMRs that can go up to 22kHz, but tend to have some ringing over 5kHz.
In the bass, they use two drivers of different sizes in separate enclosures for a smooth and extended bass response. Again the BMRs have trouble getting the right level below 120Hz, hence the separate subwoofer arrangement.
Copmared to Naim, who decided to reengineer the BMR drivers, REGA uses a standard unit and spent the money on a complex filter and beautiful cabinet. And BTW, it sounds great as well!
Waterfall Audio + Tributaries cables
Waterfall Audio have a very good business in the US of A, thanks to a good distributor who pushes the WAF factor into the CEDIA type market and also gets a lot of press in lifestyle and decoration magazines.
They teamed up with Tributaries, a relatively new range of high-end cables, where my friend Helma Paulson (ex Export Manager for Audioacess and Harman Kardon) is doing a very good sales job (she could sell ice to Eskimos, really...) and she almost convinced me that these cables were actually make a difference! Maybe I should ask for some samples....
Audiolineaire, Focal and other French ambassadors
Audiolineaire were present with their leathered speakers (unfortunately my photos don't do them justice...so, I won't post any) Focal were hiding in a private suite at the Mirage and couldn't find them (mind you it was lunch time whenI got there, so maybe that's where they were hiding...) and Cabasse were absent but for their Japanese distributor who distributes Devialet in the US - go figure!
In the New Year, I will give you a (short...) report on T.H.E. Show which is held concurrently at the Flamingos.
In the meantime, I thank all of you that ventured to this site, some more than once - I love Google Analytics - and I wish you a very Happy New Year and many happy returns in 2013.
I will try my best to continue to entertain and inform you. See you in January!
You guessed it correctly - I was waiting to have my very own OPPO BD-95 to start reviewing sources encountered at the CES! And yes, it was my birthday present, and yes it does all it is supposed to do and does it very well indeed and I love it to bits!
It has been reviewed by every conscientious hifi journalist on the Planet, including a raving Ken Kessler, not a mince feast!
So, I am not going to do an in-depth review here, but after having listened to half a dozen CDs or so and two Blu-Ray, I can confirm that this machine does extract information from these discs in an extremely accurate way and present it to your ears in full colour - absence of noise, perfect silence between notes, accurate decays, impeccable timbre accuracy and amazing dynamic range even on my NAD amp - my Bryston 3b having decided to blow a fuse in the installation process and being at the Syntec hospital for a few more days!
I can't wait to get it back and enjoy even more firmness in the bass and more silk in the treble.
On a very rare recording of Memphis Slim in Paris in 1963 (INA FCD 127), recorded in various large and small venues, you can instantly recognised the differences, rather than just feel them on another player. It was particularly true of the recordings at "Les Trois Maillets", Memphis's favourite joint in Paris, where I was fortunate enough to meet and listen to him playing and singing with no mike, my arm resting on his piano, and that was a few years later in 1971, when I was at Uni. A real life and live experience...
It just confirms that a well designed 24/192 player can give a better sound than vynil and at a fraction of the price (1500$), my references being Michell Orbe (6000$) and Bergman (12000$) here...or a good old Rega, bien sur!
I have listened so far to Dire Straits "Private Investigations" and Andrea Boccelli live in Tuscany on Blu-Ray
- the video performance limited only by the smallish size of my LG LCD screen, but still providing blacker blacks and more accurate colours and nuances (ah, that sunset in Tuscany...), and on CD Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, and Rite of Spring on Decca (see my "Music" page), Carl Orff's Carmina Burana on DGG - a challenge for the NAD amp, I have to say... - , Carmen Fantasy with Anne-Sophie Mutter (obviously...should I say that to me Anne Sophie Mutter is to music what Sophie Marceau is to French Cinema???)) also on DGG, Astrud Gilberto Gold collection of Brazilian inspired songs on Verve, also on Verve "Ella and Louis", on Decca again the Organ Symphony and violin concerto number 3 by Saint-Saens, and The Astounding Eyes of Rita by Anouar Brahem playing the oud so graciously on ECM - and by the way, I still found time to work and cook!
Well, this is not MY reference system...
But it was certainly very adequate to listen to the new Martin Logan Ethos!
Thanks to the very friendly and knowledgeable team of my friend Adam Carlino at AudioConnection, I think I was the first person in Sydney at least to have the chance to listen to these fabulous speakers.
I will summarise my findings by saying it is the first time I am considering upgrading from my cherished Microphase speakers in the last 25 years...(yes, I know, I am biaised!)
But let's start at the begining:
I currently use a REGA P1 (in its NAD jacket...) with the new RB250 arm(I also have a REGA P3 - vintage 1984...currently on loan to my daughter) and a recently acquired Ortofon RED MM cartridge feeding a NAD 7140 receiver (1984 vintage) used only as a preamp/FM Tuner and then into my Bryston 3B (1994 vintage).
I use a Pioneer DVD/SACD player as a digital source.
I also recently got an iPhone than I am keen to try as a pure digital source.
I have been very happy with this system for many a year and even after visting the HiFi show in Paris, I didn't find anything that took my fancy at a reasonable price.
I have been investigating upgrading my preamp and am considering buying either a NAD C165BEE (#1500$) or a Bryston BP26 with a MM phono stage (#5000$ for comparable features).
So the question is: Is it worth spending an additional 3500$ to get a complete Bryston amplification, or should we spend that money on upgrading the front-end, namely the turntable?
Obviously, it is only by trying the different combinations that you might be able to find the answer, and this is almost impossible to achieve as it would be almost impossible to find all this gear at ONE dealer, willing to spend the time to put such a system together with the hope that one might something out of this exercise.
My ideal and theoritical reference system today would look like this this:
Michell Orbe turnable with Origin-modified Rega RB250 (as the one fitted on the rega P1/NAD555), probably fitted with a Grado Platinum (6500$)
Bryston BP26 with external power supply, remote control and phono stage (4500$)
Bryston 3B power amp
Martin Logan Ethos (10000$)
Total price of the upgrade: 21000$
My second choice would be to upgrade my Rega turntable with Isokinetic kits and arm using Origin Live mods and Grado Platinum cartridge, a new C165BEE NAD preamp, my current Bryston 3B amp and Microphase speakers - that would cost me around 3000$ and would probably satiate my appetite for a better system for many years to come. And that is a 700% price difference!
Will I get a 700% improvement in my listening pleasure???
I let you be the judge...
In the meantime, my current system is MY reference system as I know perfectly all its weaknesses and strengths and this is totally adequate to review other systems against it
BTW, the Martin Logan Ethos are the best value for money speakers I have ever listen to and they provide REAL music and enjoyment:
It was really fabulous to see the expression of surprise and delight on my dealer's face as we listened together to a live recording of "Private Investigations" from an old Dire Straits album called "Alchemy" and my best test record...
It was recorded in 1983 on a Rolling Stone mobile studio and is a magical piece of music, engineering and it was (unknowingly at the time...) my first encounter with Australia, as Brett Whiteley, one of the most famous Australian painter, did the artwork for the cover.
Brett Whiteley in this particular work could be labeled as the Aussie Salvator Dali, my most favourite artist of all times (Album Vertigo VERY 11 #818 243-1)
Just found out that this is now available as a DVD/Blu-Ray album (http://www.mark-knopfler.info/d2010.htm). My birthday is coming soon...
I am not too sure how I came to own one of these fancy French contraptions, and I have no recollection how it disappeared from my life, apart from the fact that I had a very naughty kitten at one point who really enjoyed playing with the antiskating counterweight!
One can always use a cover, I hear you say, but there is great debate out there, whether or not it affects the sound!
The cat certainly did!!!
This was quite an elaborate design, with a floating subchassis and an arm based on an unprecedented (and unrepeated, as far as I know) virtual design pivot.
I heard on another forum that JC Verdier had a hand in the design...If it is true, then it would have been the most inexpensive of his designs!
The whole thing was pretty difficult to set up and was very wobbly indeed, but the sound was quite an upgrade from the Dual it replaced.
It is also at that time, that I started to be very found of the Grado cartridges, certainly contributing to the notch up in quality from the inexpensive Shure cartridges used on the Dual.
It is also at that time that I started to work for HP in the Test & Measurement division - now Agilent, and had access to the best test equipment in the World!
I had a big garage at the time, all fitted as an electronic laboratory, where I played with MOSFET amplifiers, ICE amplifiers modules from Sanken (I used to sell them...) and curiously, not much with tubes and speakers. All this happened before I moved to Scotland and discovered NAD, and the battle between Linn and Rega, the emergence of the CD...and started designing the Microphase speakers.
All photos are courtesy of www.vinylengine.com
We have had several versions of the cabinets and filters.
The first hundred or so were made without any commercial objective of profit whatsoever and we had the crossover made on the fly (see photo in previous post) and the internal faces of the cabinet were lined with bitumen for added neutrality. We even had a very limited series finished in piano lacquer (8 coats with resanding in between coats) which we sold for about 4 times the price of the standard ones (see photos of my daughter's system below featuring a pair of them, together with MY Rega and a A60 amp from A&R Cambridge, now Arcam)
BTW, I bought myself a NAD turntable for Christmas. They are obviously made by REGA, but with a cheaper mindset, and on a positive note the new Rega 251 arm and Ortofon OM5E cartridge, an improvement on the Grado I use on the Rega.
Under commercial pressure, later versions were not lined with bitumen and the filter was later built on a printed circuit board. Although it does not seem to affect the quality of the sound too much, I am still to do an A/B listening test to make sure.
My next project is actually to build new filters on air core inductors, better capacitors (all from Solen...after all they are a French company!) and also implement an impedance compensation network on the midrange driver, and no PCB. There is also room for improvement with the damping cloth used inside the cabinet. I will keep you posted on these experiments.
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.